As far as I am concerned, in fitness, the important thing is not to lose sight of the long-term horizon when training.
What I mean by this is that, as a personal trainer, working with clients is not simply about establishing and meeting short-term goals, though these can be very important. Rather, it is about having a dialogue and, ideally, a productive fitness relationship with clients over a longer period whilst focusing attention and effort on the horizon over the hill and on distant objectives. This is why I like to build long-term relationships with my clients, on the gym floor or training outdoors, and this belief also drives my fitness relationships on a more personal level, helping people to advance sustainably on their long-term health goals.
In this context, a fitness lifestyle should not end when a certain physical form or weight has been reached. Rather, it should continue once short-term goals have been achieved, when such accomplishments serve as the launching pad for an attitude to fitness focused on and for a lifetime.
I also apply this principle to my own goal-setting.
When I train for rugby, my training typically takes place in two phases:
During pre-season, the training is focused on heavy exercise, strength-building and on adding muscle and strength to the physical frame combined with the ability to deliver explosive energy on the field when it is needed.
This is a standard way of training for those who play rugby.
Then, once the playing season starts, the training shifts to supporting the playing of the game competitively on the field. From this point, until the season is finished, the training supports field play with less heavy or demanding training, as the body cannot play and push hard in the gym at the same time. This is asking too much and can lead to stress and injury, so the training is more supportive of the play that takes place on the field.
These principles also apply to exercise for long-term fitness. In this context, training should also be adaptive to circumstance and changing requirements. It should be responsive and undertaken in the context of long-term gains.
In the present, when training, if one follows a long-term training programme this translates into not demanding too much of the body so often (which again can lead to injury), whilst being realistic about what can be achieved around other life commitments.
Roger Federer, for example, has spoken recently about how he changed his training programme to include shorter breaks between tournaments (where previously he used to take longer breaks earlier in his career when playing) and evening-out his training so that he does not have to stop training so often.
Dialling-down a demanding workout schedule in this way, whilst maintaining focus and intensity when training, can work well when exercising for the long-term. It can be less exhausting for the person working out and build a road to the fitness horizon more consistently and sustainably. It can also fend-off the distractions of injury (which in themselves can become increasingly more troubling as the years advance).
It is important to meet short-term and immediate fitness goals, whilst looking to the medium term where exercise and diet is concerned. This is the way to see achievable goals being delivered. But looking to the horizon at the same time and moderating training to achieve long-term goals is equally important and rewarding.
So, build that road for the long-term, and enjoy the journey whilst travelling on it.